Kansas City, Here We Come

After a few more photos from outside Werner Park, we bid farewell to Omaha and begin our journey toward today’s Game 2 in Kansas City, KS, where the T-Bones await us.

The weather no longer threatens as we travel back into Iowa over a two-lane iron toll bridge. Back to hugging the Iowa-Nebraska state line, we cross into Missouri and eventually sneak into far eastern Kansas. I’d been to Kansas City and the Overland Park area many times, but never for baseball.

Community America Ballpark is nestled near Kansas Speedway and rows of every franchise retailer and restaurant you can imagine. The same light colored brick adorns each building. The entire area appears brand new and well planned.

Community America Ballpark Parking Lot - Kansas City

We park and tailgate (literally, on the truck’s tailgate), wetting our whistles with one of Mitch’s growlers. Families nearby tailgate more traditionally with grills. A gentleman greets us to ask for a match.

As more fans arrive, we make our way across the parking lot to the ticket window. The modern brick exterior is inviting, clean and appearing new although this park is ten years old in 2013.

The T-Bones match up against the Sioux City Explorers tonight. After the miles we covered since Fargo last night, I can’t help but think about the travel for these teams: bus rides covering El Paso, St. Paul, Fargo, Gary (Indiana), and even Winnipeg.

Community America Ballpark Action - Kansas City

Community America Ballpark RF - Kansas CityAlthough we don’t try much more than a craft beer and peanuts, the concessions are varied. The back concourse between first base and the plate opens up to a small street of vendors on both sides, including barbecue platters.

You can walk all around the playing field with the now popular grassy areas beyond right field. The building behind the sloped grass houses games for kids.

Sean Toler in T-Bones Pen - Kansas City

Mitch and I stroll about and stop near the T-Bones pen. We’re intrigued by how close the fans could be to Sean Toler, who begins to loosen for an eventual appearance in the 8th inning. We remain here until Toler gets the call and races toward the mound.

Unfortunately for the T-Bones, Sioux City scratches out an unearned run in the 8th to win a well-pitched game, 2-1. Toler takes the hard luck loss.

After the game we settle into a Holiday Inn downtown on the Missouri side, the only Holiday Inn we’ve ever experienced with a 7-11 attached. We loosely plan the next day over a Slurpee and MLB highlights.

Since we’re staying in the area, we definitely want Kansas City barbecue. We need to decide between two breweries to visit. Plus, we promise ourselves a priority stop before Wednesday night’s game, part of our overall trip plan since January.

Little did we know, UBT magic would take over yet again following a good night’s rest.
Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day Four – Game 1

As you walk in to Werner Park, you notice a wide open concourse behind the stands. It curves behind home plate and up both base lines. Nothing unusual about that, except it’s really wide, which is convenient. Plus, there’s nothing overhead, so you see signs everywhere alerting you to beware of foul balls. With no warning, two boys near a concession stand almost got nailed by a foul pop behind the plate.

Since today’s promotion was half-price burgers, Mitch and I follow the local crowd to the burger stand at the back of the concourse at third base. The lines are long, but that’s to be expected for half-price burgers.

Plus, waiting in line presents opportunities for conversation. A friendly woman behind us notices our UBT schedule and chats with us. We talk about our trip, about Rosenblatt Stadium, about her granddaughter, (one of the school children who sang an energetic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner).

Weekday day games at every park draw busloads of school-age and pre-school children. This was no exception.

We take our burgers and fries (and craft draughts) to our bleacher seats beyond the left field fence, where we sit among various school groups. Apparently, part of their ticket package includes hot dogs, because their daycare teachers were handing out loads of warm wrapped dogs from large cardboard boxes.

By the time Xavier Nady homers to give the Storm Chasers an early 1-0 lead, the sun shines brightly, reflecting off the bleachers. Memphis Redbird, Jamie Romak, ties it in the 4th with his own long ball. I’m a little sorry that Oscar Tavares is still hurt, but the level of talent and Major League experience on both teams impress.

Werner Park Action - Omaha, NE

The Family Fun Zone, which seems to accompany all Major and Minor League parks these days, remains active to our right, beyond several picnic tables. There’s also berm seating in both left and right fields past our “Fun Porch” bleachers.

Ryan Jackson doubles to greet reliever Donnie Joseph to lead off the visitors’ 6th. Brock Peterson singles him home with the final run. The 2-1 final represents UBT 2013’s first home team defeat.

A crisply played, sun-filled Game One of today’s doubleheader allows for a more leisurely drive to Game Two.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day-Night Twinbill – In Jeopardy?

Tuesday, June 3, 2013 – UBT Day Four

Before we reach the southern border of South Dakota, the dark clouds begin to lift. The threat of rain continues, but small holes of blue sky appear.

Finally, we cross the Missouri River into Iowa and continue south through construction zones and more farms. But definitely more civilization, too; a different feel from the serenity offered by the vast prairies of North and South Dakota.

We cross the bridge at Council Bluffs into Nebraska. When you fly to Omaha, you actually fly into Council Bluffs, which I’ve done many times on business.

Omaha is famous, of course, for hosting the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium. I’ve been by the old girl (born in 1947), but never had an opportunity to catch a game there.

Now it’s been replaced. Twice.

The College World Series has a new home. I’ve also been by it during construction. Rosenblatt (and its rich history), unfortunately, is to become an extended parking lot for the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Such is progress.

And the Omaha Storm Chasers (formerly the Royals) moved into a new stadium near Papillion. As the sky brightens a bit, Mitch and I pull into the parking lot for today’s 1 PM start.

Wener Park Parking Lot - Omaha, Nebraska

From the lot at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo to here covers 430-some miles or about 6.5 hours of driving time. But after this game, we need to be back on the road to catch today’s second game at 7, in another city in yet another state.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day-Night Twinbill Starts … Here

Monday, June 3, 2013 – Night Three

We drive out of Fargo. And we drive. Speed limit 75 MPH.

And it’s pitch black on both sides of the Interstate. Nothing else.

The only light comes from occasional lightning in the distance to our right, and then behind us as we drive some more. The lightning really illuminates the dense clouds on such a dark night.

And we drive. No visible trees, homes, outdoor lights. Just darkness.

We stop for fuel at an exit that features Dakota Magic Casino and a fuel stop. And nothing more. One tractor trailer is also fueling.

And we drive.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 – Day Four

Well after the clock strikes twelve Central Time, we pull in to our destination: Brookings, South Dakota. Christian checks us into our hotel.

After a short snooze, we awaken to a rainy Tuesday morning. We need to get back on the road to keep heading south, hugging the Dakota-Minnesota line.

In the gray daylight, large farm fields and occasional cattle dot both sides of the Interstate. The forecast is not very promising. Brief downpours accompany the dense cloud cover. Could I-29 lead to our first ever UBT rainout?

And we drive.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

More Fargo Treasures

As much as we enjoy baseball on UBT, we relish the opportunity to talk with folks along the way. Dawn Morton, a Redhawks usherette for 17 of the team’s 18 years in Fargo-Moorhead, asks us about our trip along the third base concourse.

Dawn Morton with Trippers - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

Dawn traveled east to witness Punxsutawney Phil’s millennium prediction, but didn’t get to see a baseball game in Pittsburgh. (I think even I’d have to hesitate if the Buccos wanted to play in early February.)

The buttons attached to Dawn’s lanyard represent her name tags over the years. You’ll also find one button with a completely different name. That’s the name you’re to use if you have a complaint!

On the first base side, guarding the entrance to the suite deck, we strike up a conversation with Ed Fitzgerald. Ed also has been associated with the team for 17 years.

Ed FItzgerald with Trippers - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

Soon after returning from the service, Ed won a golf tournament where he was teamed with members of the local television station. 30-some years later, Ed retired from that station. I concur from personal experience that your handicap can be a tremendous asset when seeking a position in broadcasting.

Ed casually mentions that he met Roger Maris and his family when Roger lived here. He also casually mentions that there’s a Maury Wills Museum under the ballpark. As rookies at Newman Outdoor Field, we would have never known.

Apparently, Maury visits each summer to assist on radio broadcasts and do a couple of appearances. Mitch and I miss an inning or so to head to the lower level where we see Maury Wills memorabilia and a televised looping interview featuring Maury stories.

Maury Wills Locker - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

After the game, we say a fond farewell to Fargo, North Dakota. It’s time to begin the trek south to prepare for our Tuesday day-night doubleheader in two different cities.

The game cities alone span a 3.5 hour drive, but that’s merely the half of it. Literally.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short